andrei

Mar 162013
 


The London distilled conference has become a good occasion to catch up with the recent trends in the ever changing industry of Search and to socialize with some really cool people – some top Search professionals are also top people full stop. Before I even start going through my personal highlights of the event, it is worth noticing this was the last Link love – Search love is the next natural step forward it seems, for the cleverly conceptualised conference as well as the world of Search more broadly.

In the last few years, Wil Reynolds has been one of the highlights of the event for me – apart from the exceptional knowledge, the guy has also got unbelievable enthusiasm for the job – very rare and indeed a breath of fresh air compared to some other participants (second speaker comes to mind). There is a (very) good reason why they start the event with Will – enthusiasm is an essential part of our job, one where SEOers have to swim against the tide of algorithms, changes, limited budgets, difficult clients and the list can go on. So good to get off to a good start!

Overall, the general feeling across the board is that the landscape is changing radically – a change that can be summed up by the phrase ‘It’s becoming easier to make it than to fake it’. In other words, there is less and less point of trying to games Search engines – the algorithms have become so sophisticated and it’s so expensive to work against them that is is now more sensible to focus on those ‘eternal’ values, such as brand, content and natural link growth. Sorry old school die hards!

Naturally, links are still part of the game, but a more holistic approach is needed nowadays in order to succeed at the art of optimisation. Considerations such as using psychology concepts to create content that attracts links and complex tools for link profile analysis all of a sudden make us realise the overall complexity of being a Search professional in 2013 – and it will only get harder as we move along. The big SEO party is over! And this is probably a good thing, since only the best professionals will be able to continue in the current settings and beyond.

Other personal highlights included how to SEO for small businesses on a 350£ budget per month, which looks like a brave idea that seems to work for some local setups. The main conclusion I’ve drawn is that most of these professionals speaking at the 2013 Distilled conference have managed to find their personal way of approaching Search, their own style if you like, and this seems to set them apart from the crowd.

‘Search’ is the new term – Will Critchlow illustrated the new online marketing landscape perfectly. Most of us could be busy cleaning up link profiles in the near future, but in the long term only viable, coherent link building strategies will be worth SEOers’ time and money, lots of it.

 March 16, 2013  Posted by  SEO matters Comments Off on London Distilled conference 2013 – personal highlights
Jan 142013
 

Being an SEO (and succeeding) in 2013 is very different from, say, a year or two ago. 2012 has seen some major changes to Search engine marketing and whoever hasn’t adapted is almost surely guaranteed to disappear from the SEM radar.

For 2013, Google will more than likely remain the main player in Search engine marketing: despite Bing currently being credited with around 16% of the market share, Google still remains by far the major player on the scene, with around 80% of searches still being run through the Internet giant. This also means the primary Search Engine can almost dictate its own rules when it comes to Search, and the growth in revenue from PPC by almost 50% in the last year is a good example of how Google is growing increasingly dictatorial on the internet.

For online marketing professionals, these changes in the landscape have also meant changes in strategy and priorities. The main change is that of SEO slowly but surely becoming SEM. Generally, SEO and SEM is perceived as more or less the same thing, but the idea at the centre of this transformation is that SEO can no longer work on its own – integration with content, social media and conversion optimisation is where the future lies for this acquisition channel.

SEM, unlike SEO, includes PPC, and PPC is becoming increasingly important as Google favours big brands to smaller affiliate sites and almost forcing this option on businesses. Without getting too much into the cliche discussion along the lines of  ‘Is SEO dead’ etc, optimisation as we got used to it will have to change and incorporate other elements as Search is becoming more social and complex.

Numerous authoritative voices maintain the last major algorithm update has been spread over many months to deliberately confuse SEO professionals and many elements of that update will be slowly rolled out throughout 2013. Whether this turns to be the case or not, we should expect many tweaks to the way sites are ranked at the moment and strategy should be revised every few months, particularly for mobile, where changes are currently happening at an even faster pace.

The conclusion of all this is that the future SEOer will be more of an all-round marketing specialist, able to integrate content, social and other elements into the overall marketing and acquisition strategy, while still being proficient at onsite and offsite optimisation. Overall, not easy, but the next few years will surely separate the boys from the men in the SEO/SEM world of change.

Adapt or die is an evolutionist approach that could surely be applied to SEO in 2013. My guess is that only the good SEM specialists will be able to thrive and even exist in the context of the new changes, which are more than likely to continue as search algorithms are becoming more sophisticated, and this natural selection is in my opinion a good thing that could ultimately improve the reputation of SEM within the marketing context.

Being an SEM specialist in 2013 is not just a job – it’s an adventure!

 January 14, 2013  Posted by  SEO matters 2 Responses »
Dec 052012
 

The world of mobile and mobile optimisation is changing more rapidly than other fields – the average strategy planning spans in the industry go up to about 3 months and need to be reassessed at least quarterly in order to stay ahead of the game and incorporate new mobile devices that enter the market or constantly changing mobile practices.

In line with this fast pace of change, any mobile SEO strategy should incorporate the following considerations: flexibility, scalability and continuous reassessment. The incipient phase of mobile will inevitably lead to the next stage in the industry, where more specific targeting will revolve around tablets, smart phones, mobile phones etc, rather than just have a mobile option for all situations.

By specifically targeting various devices, companies and individuals can ensure more improved relevance and user experiences for the customer and also efficiently manage the following:

-targeted mobile friendly content

-mobile specific and device specific link building

-multilingual geo-location targeted content and promotion offers

-device specific brand and other promotions, including incentives for devices that may enter the market in the future

-ensure customers are presented with what they are looking for, therefore give them no reason to go somewhere else

More searches for mobile are local and the Google algorithm, at least for now, seems to favour local search results more when it comes to mobile in comparison to the standard option. For link building and off site SEO, the link profiles of mobile sites are very different from standard ones – there are generally less links and not many people link build for mobile yet.

As we progress, specific targeting for mobile, responsive website planning (which is popular among developers as well as Google) and flexibility to incorporate elements of the constantly changing world of mobile should be at the centre of our strategy for mobile optimisation. According to the latest Google survey dedicated to mobile (Summer 2012), the following factors have to be taken into consideration now, with surely a lot more to be added to the list in the near future:

-smartphone users are inclined to abandon sites that are not optimised for mobile

-96% of current mobile users are frustrated by their mobile experience and think there is a lot of room for improvement

-bad experiences hurt the brand

-67% of mobile devices users are more likely to convert on mobile-friendly sites

In other words, devising, managing and updating a coherent mobile SEO strategy is like a marathon with elements of sprint.

 December 5, 2012  Posted by  SEO matters Comments Off on SEO strategy for mobile – the only constant is change
Nov 152012
 

To my surprise, there are still people out there who question why Google and other search engines use links to rank pages in search results – and some of them even call themselves SEO specialists!

I know, this is ridiculous. The other day I was leafing through an SEO forum and spotted someone asking why doesn’t Google just stop using links as a ranking factor to avoid all the confusion caused by fluctuations in rankings and so on. And yes, the person behind this ingineous question called himself ‘SEO King’…

First, before I even start – if this is the kind of guy you hired to take care of your SEO, you’re in deep trouble, and the main reason for that is a good SEOer needs a global understanding of Search engines and the eco-system surrounding them. Only then will an SEO specialist be proficient enough to deal with the constantly-changing landscape of Search and online marketing. Unless you’re negligent enough about your SEO, of course.

But let’s get back to the very beginning, and namely to the question of why does Google use links as a ranking factor. The shortest answer to that is links are seen as third party votes for a site or page. As things stand, there are no other more accurate metrics, despite the fact that link quality metrics are very complex and not completely accurate.

Social signals – they are growing in importance as a ranking factor, but for the near future links will remain the main algorithmic indicator of a site’s value. It is quite possible to see a change in the landscape once algorithms become sophisticated enough to incorporate quantitative and qualitative metrics for social signals, until then SEO is dead – long live SEO!

As an example, let’s say 2 sites have 1000 Facebook Likes each – for the sake of the argument – how would we and indeed the algo differentiate between the two? Metrics for social profiles etc will no doubt become more targeted and accurate, but even then I can see a mixture of links and social signals used to rank internet entities.

In a way, links and SEO is like democracy – it’s far from ideal and has many deficiences, but it’s the best system we’ve invented so far and until we come up with something better, we’ll have to work with what we’ve got – lots of complexity and many opinions on how to SEO. And next time someone presents themselves as an SEO specialist and then asks you why does Google need links, Google ‘SEO specialist’.

 November 15, 2012  Posted by  SEO matters Comments Off on Why Google (still) uses links to rank websites – the fundamental SEO question
Oct 172012
 

For a long time, exact match domains have been the secret weapon of inventive SEOers, and although they are still valuable assets, Google and potentially other search engines are starting to target them with new algorithm updates. Let’s go through the immediate implications.

Before we start, it is important to specify whether we are looking at the issue from a purely SEO point of view or from a broader, on line marketing standpoint and possibly branding, which is becoming increasingly important for both rankings and general marketing decision making. Exact match domains can be brands in their own right, which has implications for on site optimisation and link building at the same time.

First, it has to be said it’s more than possible to succeed without having any targeted keywords in your domain – Matt Cutts himself states this and examples are pretty convincing: domains such as Digg or Reddit are brands first, and this is at the centre of their popularisation. On the other hand, EMD such as casinoonline.com and others that include the main targeted keyword in the domain name have been known to do well on SERPs. For a long time, internet users have been noticing Google and other search engines give too much weight to EMDs, so Google decided to tweak the algorithm and even things out a little bit. As a result of these recent changes, EMDs do not necessarily outrank other domains, such as brand-centred ones, based on the domain name only.

But EMD are not about rankings only, as isn’t on line marketing in general. A domain that is based around the targeted keyword or product is much easier to market and brand – for instance, guitar-improvisation.com will be much easier to promote and advertise as a brand than a more general domain name. Social media options will also be easier to implement where an exact match domain is also the product and brand at the same time, as well as the primary targeted phrase in SERPs.

In terms of link building, EMDs offer the advantage of brand and targeted keyword, or domain name, being the same thing, and allows link building anchor text to be used more efficiently: back to our earlier example, guitar-improvisation.com, http://guitar-improvisation.com and ‘guitar improvisation’ are all anchor text that centres link building around the main targeted product of phrase. In the not so distant past, this would have been a 100% winning combination – these types of EMDs had a big advantage over anything else on the internet. More recently, due to numerous changes in the algo, just having an EMD with a few exact match links to it doesn’t guarantee ranking on the first page, although generally these remain valuable assets.

As a temporary conclusion, since the ranking and more general landscape is bound to change again and again over time, EMDs on their own are no longer enough to rank – content and other similar factors will be just as important going forward, but the potential branding advantage, combined with a relatively simplified link building model, still make EMDs valuable domain names in digital online marketing.

 October 17, 2012  Posted by  SEO matters 2 Responses »
Oct 012012
 

In the last year or so, Google’s revenue from paid search has increased by almost 50% – together with the landscape changing updates released over the same period of time, these are clear indications of what Google wants us to do – less SEO and more PPC. But hasn’t this always been the case?

In general terms – yes, but recently we’ve been witnessing an acceleration of what can be summarised in the following terms:

-Google’s focus on big brands – as a result, the so-called ‘little guys’ like affiliates and small businesses generally suffered and saw their rankings drop

-Continuous changes and tweaks in the algorithm saw an almost complete reshuffle of the landscape, especially in the first 10 results or the first page, where big brands gained terrain and more recently, even exact match domains suffered as a result of an update specifically targeted and this type of sites, which in itself is quite interesting – the detail into which Google is ready to get in order to achieve its goals is truly extraordinary

-Google’s revenue from PPC has increased by almost 50%, which is a direct result of the changes I mentioned and the monopolist’s drive to make paid search an almost obligatory alternative for all important players in the search realm

Matt Cutts stated recently (again) that these changes are not attacks on SEOers, but evidence seems to suggest otherwise. From the names chosen for algorithm updates – Panda, Penguin etc, meant to discredit SEO professionals in front of their clients when things go wrong as a result of an update, to aggressive strategies that have made PPC a much more attractive option than investments in SEO, we are witnessing something that can be summarised only as Google being greedy.

Having said that, SEO is reemerging (again!) following these changes, but it is not becoming less important within the online marketing landscape: sites still need to be optimised and links are still the only more or less indicative factor when it comes to ranking search results. As complex as they are, links still serve as ranking factors, and that means SEO is as alive as ever, but SEOers need to be clever, mainly taking into consideration a few factors that have increased in importance in 2012, mainly:

-anchor text distribution – link profiles which are more balanced and don’t contain an exaggerated number of exact match text tend to do better in SERPS – it is no coincidence that all major link analysis tools have updated their link profile options in terms of anchor text

-brand anchor text – a strong brand is a good and long term link building strategy, so do not underestimate brand links!

-relevance of landing pages and mapping keywords to relevant pages in terms of content and titles, descriptions etc – you will surprised how many people still disregard this and end up with keywords mapped to different pages, which are often irrelevant and so on

Conclusion: Despite PPC growing in importance, SEO is as alive as ever! Only strategies that include branding, quality content and long term optimisation agendas will be the only ones to survive as viable digital marketing options.

 October 1, 2012  Posted by  SEO matters Comments Off on SEO vs PPC: what Google wants, Google gets (well, most of the time)
Sep 062012
 

AC Rank, Citation flow and Trust flow: updated link building metrics from Majestic SEO

It’s official: Majestic’s AC Rank has been rethought! From now on, it will be replaced by the more detailed and (hopefully) reliable Citation flow and Trust flow. AC rank will still be available upon creating a report for the site(s), but it will no longer be the principal indicator of link equity for internet domains and pages.

There are a few reasons why the specialists from Majestic, which is still one of the most used on line marketing tools among professionals ranging from SEO to PR, decided to update their primary indicator of link and site quality. The world of links, sites and digital marketing is becoming more and more sophisticated and a simple indicator of how many links point to a site is no longer sufficient – we need indicators of quality as well as quantity in order to get a useful representation of a site’s value.

From what conclusions we can make for now, the Citation flow is used to determine the number of links pointing to site, or in other words references to a domain on other sites. The trust flow deals more with the quality of links as well as the ‘social’ signals that make a site an acceptable member of the internet community. It depends on the site topic – gambling sites tend to have a lower Trust flow, the quality of inbound links and the quality of content.

In other words, a ‘solid’ site should normally  have a Citation flow of around 30 and a Trust flow of around 20. There is of course a correlation with AC rank – a ‘solid’ site of the above description usually has an AC rank of at least 6 and above.

The new Majestic flow metrics are good, however, the best way to assess how reputable a site is – you’ll never get a fully, 100% accurate picture, but as close to virtual reality as possible – is to still use a combination of tools that provide various quantitative and qualitative indicators on which you can make a decision.

 September 6, 2012  Posted by  SEO matters Comments Off on AC Rank vs Citation flow and Trust flow: the latest Majestic link evaluation metrics
Aug 012012
 

Off-site search engine optimisation: the only constant is change

Introduction: the world of online marketing and particularly off-site SEO is a constantly changing one. Strategy and its immediate applications are normally revised every few months and recently the pace of changes has significantly increased. There are multiple causes for this increase, among which Google’s ambitions are at the centre of most dynamics. Google still onws over 80% of the Search engine market and this truly monstruous share makes them the most important player in the industry. Other notable players include Bing, Duckduckgo and partially Yahoo. Here are the main points of my improvised SWOT analysis for off-site SEO:

 

S-Strengths:

-links are still very powerful and STILL THE ONLY practical way of ranking sites, despite social media and other signals gaining in importance

-Off site SEO benefits include increased site authority and visibility to new potential customers, better Brand awareness and additional visitors that come through the placed links and the outreach work

-As more and more people are getting online, digital marketing, including SEO, is surely bound to grow in importance, implicitly an investment in this area is also an investment in the future of marketing

 

W-Weaknesses:

-there are many challenges for off site SEO, the most important of which are the algorithms change often, it is hard to establish the value of a link and managing link building is one of the hardest tasks in online marketing

-It is hard to measure SEO generally and off site activities particularly: tracking does not always represent an accurate picture of new acquisitions and revenue

-it is hard to promote SEO within organisations as not many people understand it

 

O-Opportunities:

-Through a good presence in Search engines, a business can acquire new customers that wouldn’t otherwise find the site, especially for non-branded keywords

-The online realm is only going to grow with time, and with it your business if you can guarantee a significant  presence of your business on the internet

-Online customer acquisition and business  management are financially rewarding as well as facilitated by technology

 

T-Threats:

-Negative SEO: although Google says (through Matt Cutts) it is not an issue, there are facts to prove the contrary

-Penalties: over optimisation and other penalties can be triggered by ‘unusual’ link building activities and patterns

-Bad publicity: linking to potentially damaging sites can attract unwanted attention that can generate negative PR

 

Conclusion: despite multiple challenges, if competently managed, off site SEO has an important part to play within digital marketing strategies of a business and most future developments of online marketing.

 

 August 1, 2012  Posted by  SEO matters Comments Off on Quick guide to off-site optimisation – an improvised SWOT analysis
Jul 312012
 

Using content as a driving force behind online marketing strategies

In the recent online marketing context, SEO is more and more interdependent with content strategies. From the older saying of ‘content is king’ to present days of performing as a business on the internet, more quality content for your website, within the targeted niche, is becoming increasingly important for anyone who wants to keep the pace with the industry.

But first things first – thinking like as SEO-er versus thinking like an all-round online marketing specialist. It’s been well known for a while that many people would place content into a few categories, for example quality content, average and low quality content. The last two were often referred to as ‘industrial’ content, which was never intended to win any Nobel prizes for literature, but was still unique and relatively decently written. Apart from these, duplicate content, which no longer brings any benefits and instead attracts penalties, is now out of the picture altogether. The picture that matters, anyway.

Generally, the benefits of good content can be listed as follows: it attracts relevant visitors, it helps build your site’s authority and attracts relevant, contextual links. The same as low-quality, potentially harmful links, content that in not unique is to be avoided at all costs. I guess the minimum requirements for decent content can be summarised with the following descriptives: unique, relevant and potentially shareable. It of course depends on the purpose and ambition for which content is created, but overall as long as the three mentioned criteria are met, your place on the web should be a good one to own.

The degree of difficulty increases when we have to deal with multilingual sites. Many of my customers create good content in English and then translate it (well) into other languages. Well translated content has nothing to do with duplication, and this approach seems to be both efficient and cost-effective.

Depending on the type of website, content strategies vary according to the needs of the business and the type of the audiences it is targeting. Casino websites will require completely different writing from a sports site, and educational websites will always require differently written content from more generic enterprises. Despite these facts being obvious and common sense, many businesses still make basic mistakes when it comes to planning and distributing content for online entities.

These ideas have so far focused on general aspects of content management. They are also the basics on which further layers can be built, but in the light of recent changes SEO will have to rely heavily on quality content in order to continue as an important marketing tool – links on their own are no longer a viable option.

 July 31, 2012  Posted by  SEO matters Comments Off on Content strategies: how to use content as a driving force for your business
Jul 202012
 

Conversion optimisation – the factors behind visitors buying on your site or deciding to look somewhere else

SEO is increasingly becoming integrated with other aspects of online marketing – social media, online PR and conversation optimisation are all interdependent and designing a coherent integrated strategy is key to online marketing success.

Driving traffic to a website is only half of the journey, as you would  ideally want visitors to convert. So how do potential customers make decisions and what is behind those decisions? Let’s get scientific for a moment:

The decision making process can be illustrated using the following formula:

C=4M+(3V+xI)-(yF+zA), where M is Motivation, V is Value proposition, I is Incentive, F – Friction and A – Anxiety. On the other hand, x, y and z are priority coefficients. Based on this representation, potential customers make their mind up on whether to buy or not on your site. There are a few practical considerations and ideas that result from the above – minor changes can result in significant conversion rate improvements.

To start with, it’s a good idea to ensure the message which is the first point of contact between your business and the customer is not an intrusive one – avoid asking for personal information at the very beginning in order to keep A – Anxiety – to a minimum. Instead, a good offer to motivate potential buyers should ensure they stay on your site and buy your product rather than you competitors’.

Another common mistake is to have too many calls to action, which confuses the visitors. No call to action is equally bad, but having a good call to action in the right place – usually at the top and top left of the page – can significantly improve conversion rates.

From design to call to action, multiple factors influence conversation rates on a site, but even with minimum effort and by correcting some basic mistakes it won’t be long before you start seeing an improvement in results.

 July 20, 2012  Posted by  SEO matters Comments Off on Conversion optimisation: why people buy
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